Availability does not equal accessibility


The gender neutral bathroom, located on the 5th floor near the nurse's office.

Gian Paul Cadillo and Alyssa Cabrera

In New York, the NYC iSchool, one of some high schools, has taken its own steps in creating a more accessible gender-neutral restroom.

Previously, the gender-neutral bathroom, located on the 5th floor next to the nurse’s office, was kept locked and unavailable to anyone who didn’t have the key. This was an inconvenience to students who needed quick and easy access to the bathroom, in which at the time only faculty could access it.

One aspect that students need in order to have a safe, accepting school environment is a bathroom where all students can feel comfortable.

In the U.S. there have been cases where people express that the bathroom assigned to their sex at birth does not correspond with the gender they identify as. The uprising of these feelings within America has led to the push for gender-neutral bathrooms.

However, simply making these bathrooms available may not be enough for those who would rather they become accessible.

“Available means that something someone needs exist somewhere, but it doesn’t necessarily mean someone can get to it. Accessible means people can reach the thing safely and easily,” states Leo Lipson, a sophomore at the NYC iSchool.

Despite the need for progress within this topic, there are also points that have brought things a step back rather than a step forward.

North Carolina’s legislature passed an anti-LGBT law in 2016, stating that people must use the restroom that associates to the sex on their birth certificate.

Rather than creating a law to expand the rights of the LGBTQ community, this law has resulted in transgender people feeling less supported when it comes to their gender identity.

Gender neutral restrooms are one of the many ways that society can take its next steps, not just in America, but in the whole world. The resistance against implementing said restrooms leads to people feeling less accepted or uncomfortable in society.

Action is being taken to get as much support for neutral bathrooms as possible.

Some schools are now taking action to have gender-neutral bathrooms for their students, despite other schools not doing so.

For instance, there have been schools which have implemented these restrooms in both elementary schools and high schools, in Kansas City.

In Kansas City, the district had previously installed gender-neutral bathrooms in 2016 in its Northland Innovation Center and received great feedback of everyone feeling much more comfortable and accepted.

As a result of this, Kansas City installed more gender-neutral bathrooms in its public schools. This is an example of a step forward being so successful that it has led to even more change for those in the LGBTQ community.

New York City is a generally welcoming state when it comes to the acceptance of students of various races, sexualities, and genders.

This has been shown various times in the past ranging from actions taken by the chancellor to by the mayor’s office.

An example of this is a  bill passed by the City Council in June of 2016, requiring that male and female signs in single-stall bathrooms be replaced with signs that show they are gender neutral.

Yet again, another step forward is being made for people who choose to use a bathroom that they would help them feel more comfortable in school.

Additionally, as of January 2018, Carmen Farina announced that all public schools must have a single stall bathroom. Potentially, this could be hope for all schools having a bathroom that would serve the purpose of being gender neutral.

However, simply because public schools in NYC are required to have these single stalled bathrooms, that does not mean they always become easily accessible gender-neutral bathrooms.

If something is accessible, it is equally available to people in order to provide a fair and proper environment along with a comfortable setting to keep everyone at ease.

In order to learn, people have to be comfortable both mentally and physically with their surroundings.

For example, when someone is enrolled in a rigorous course. The mentality of the person needs to be positive in order for them to work to their best ability and succeed. Being confident and also willing to participate and help others out can bring even more positivity to the classroom.

The same thing can be said for gender-neutral bathrooms where people need to actually be confident and comfortable with a bathroom that is easily accessible to them. Lipson was able to recognize this.

Lipson brought the issue to light at the iSchool, considering how important and personal the topic was.

“Getting the bathroom unlocked meant that my school was listening to me and trying to meet mine and other students needs by making school a place where everyone can feel comfortable, but it still felt long overdue,” he adds.

He sees the true value behind having such a comfortable space for students who may not feel comfortable with going to bathrooms based on their sex, and instead their gender identity.

However, this issue is not only important to those in the LGBTQ community, but it is also important to allies of the community. Lucy Gunderson, another sophomore at the iSchool, makes it clear that she supports the steps the school is taking.

As a cis person, I do feel like it’s important for people to feel as if the school cares about who they are. The openness to that [the gender-neutral bathroom] shows the openness to the community as a whole,” Gunderson says.

This openness from the iSchool is a major example of a community coming together to take steps forward in the progression of acceptance for all.

Openness, instead of the denial of concerns from students about what they want in order to feel safe in school, will ultimately lead to a better learning environment that is supportive of all.

Paulina Dunn, another cis ally for the LGBTQ community, agrees completely with Gunderson.

“I think it’s really great to have in the school. I feel like it really helps go toward letting kids in schools identify how they want in public or private,” adds Dunn.

The iSchool has come really far in making the gender-neutral bathroom a place where people can finally feel comfortable within the place they have the option to go to.  

Many people believe that just because something is available to a certain person, then they can use it, but just as Leo Lipson said, this does not mean that anyone can use it.

With an accessible gender bathroom, rather than simple available one, students can now have the safe space they need to learn their best in schools.

People and especially young students in their learning environments should not feel uncomfortable because of the bathroom that they choose to use.

Acceptance of an individual who may already be dealing with the weight of figuring out who exactly they are in this world can eventually make things a little bit easier for everyone in the long run.

Instead of tearing each other down, or ignoring the important feelings of one another, those in society must learn to work together. Building off of a foundation of support can bring positive change, which is so desperately needed in a world where hate has the potential to bring everyone down.